Transcript: Navin Ramankutty: Farming in a Changing Climate | Oct 26, 2015

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and striped lilac tie. Behind him, a wall screen reads “The Agenda, with Steve Paikin.”

Steve says STORMS, FIRES,
DROUGHTS: NO MATTER WHAT
HAPPENS, PEOPLE STILL NEED TO
EAT.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS AFFECTING WHAT
WE GROW AROUND THE WORLD.
JOINING US NOW TO TELL US WHAT
THAT MEANS TO FOOD PRODUCTION
AND WHAT, IF ANYTHING, WE CAN DO
TO ADAPT:
IN VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA:
NAVIN RAMANKUTTY, PROFESSOR IN
GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY AND
SUSTAINABILITY AT THE UNIVERSITY
OF BRITISH COLUMBIA.

Navin is in his late thirties, balding, with a stubble. He’s wearing a purple shirt.
He and Steve appear on split screens with the caption “Farming in a changing climate.” A caption under Navin’s frame reads “Vancouver, via Skype.”

Steve continues AND, PROFESSOR, IT'S GOOD OF YOU
TO JOIN US ON TVO TONIGHT.
LET'S JUST START WITH WHAT
PLANTS NEED 101, THE BARE BASICS
HERE?
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS
CROPS NEED TO GROW WELL?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Navin Ramankutty. University of British Columbia."
Then, it changes to “Farming in a changing climate. What plants need.”

Navin says YES.
WE CAN UNDERSTAND THIS QUITE
EASILY BY LOOKING AT PLANTS THAT
GROW IN OUR GARDENS AND POTS.
PLANTS BASICALLY NEED FOUR
THINGS: THEY NEED SUNLIGHT, THEY
NEED WATER, THEY NEED CARBON
DIOXIDE THAT THEY GET FROM THE
AIR, AND THEY NEED OPTIMUM
TEMPERATURES.

Steve says AND WHEN CLIMATE
CHANGE HAS AN INCREASING IMPACT
ON THE EARTH, HOW DO YOU EXPECT
THE WORLD'S CLIMATE WILL CHANGE
AND THEREFORE AFFECT THOSE FOUR
THINGS THAT YOU JUST LISTED?

Navin says YEAH.
SO YOU'RE NOT GOING TO CHANGE
LIGHT VERY MUCH.
BY PUTTING POLLUTANTS IN THE
ATMOSPHERE, WE ARE GOING TO
CHANGE SUNLIGHT SOMEWHAT, BUT
THE MAIN THINGS THAT ARE
CHANGING, THE FIRST BIG THING IS
WE ARE PUTTING MORE CARBON
DIOXIDE IN THE ATMOSPHERE.
CARBON DIOXIDE IS GOOD FOR
PLANTS, BUT THERE ARE TWO KINDS
OF PLANTS, WHAT SCIENTISTS LIKE
TO CALL C-3 AND C-4 PLANTS.
C-3 PLANTS ARE THE ONES MORE
LIKELY TO RESPOND TO CARBON
DIOXIDE INCREASE.
THEY WILL BENEFIT FROM
INCREASING CARBON DIOXIDE.
ON THE OTHER HAND, IF THE
INCREASE IN CARBON DIOXIDE IS
INCREASING THE EARTH'S
TEMPERATURE, THE EARTH IS
GETTING WARMER, AND WHETHER IT
BENEFITS PLANTS OR NOT DEPENDS
ON WHERE YOU LIVE.
BEING IN A COLD PLACE, GETTING
WARMER CAN BE GOOD FOR YOU.
BUT IF YOU'RE LIVING A PLACE
THAT'S ALREADY HOT, GETTING
WARMER CAN BE BAD FOR PLANTS.
THE LAST THING IS, AS WE ARE
GETTING WARMER, ONE OF THE
THINGS THAT HAPPENS IS THAT YOU
NEED MORE WATER FROM THE LAND,
SO SOILS GET DRIER, AND THAT'S
BAD FOR PLANTS NO MATTER WHERE
YOU LIVE.

Steve says A C-3 PLANT THAT
WOULD APPRECIATE MORE CO2, GIVE
US SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT THAT
MIGHT BE?

Navin says LET'S
TAKE WHEAT, WHICH IS A REALLY
MAJOR CROP.
WHEAT IS A C-3 PLANT.
WE PUT MORE CO2 IN THE
ATMOSPHERE, WE WILL ACTUALLY
BENEFIT FROM THAT.
ON THE OTHER HAND, AS THINGS GET
WARMER, WHEAT IS ALSO NOT GOING
TO BENEFIT FROM THAT.
AS IT GETS DRIER, WE'RE NOT
GOING TO BENEFIT FROM THAT
EITHER.
IN AN END IT'S A TRADE-OFF.
CO2 IS GOOD BUT A WARMER, DRIER
CLIMATE IS NOT GOOD FOR WHEAT.
AND SCIENTISTS HAVE DONE MODELS
TO ESTIMATE WHAT WILL ACTUALLY
HAPPEN AND THEY'RE FINDING THAT
IN THE LONG RUN, THE EFFECTS ARE
GOING TO BE BAD FOR WHEAT.
ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU TAKE
MAIZE.
MAIZE IS A C-4 CROP AND THAT
BENEFITS MUCH MORE FROM --
SORRY, THAT DOES NOT BENEFIT
FROM INCREASING IN CARBON
DIOXIDE, AND SO IT WILL ONLY BE
POORLY AFFECTED.

Steve says HOW ABOUT C-4 PLANTS?
HOW WILL THEY BE AFFECTED?

Navin says MAIZE IS A C-4.
THERE ARE FOUR MAJOR CROPS THAT
ARE C-4: MAIZE, SUGARCANE, MILL
LET, AND -- MILLET AND SORGHUM.
THEY ARE EFFICIENT AT CAPTURING
CARBON DIOXIDE FROM THE
ATMOSPHERE.
IN GENERAL, EVEN THOUGH THERE IS
A BENEFIT FROM CARBON DIOXIDE,
MOST STUDIES SHOW THAT WITH
CLIMATE CHANGE, DESPITE THE CO2
BENEFIT, CHANGING CLIMATE WILL
ACTUALLY BE BAD FOR CROPS, NO
MATTER WHERE THEY ARE.

Steve says THAT'S WHAT I WAS
GOING TO FOLLOW UP ON.
I ASSUME IN THE UNITED STATES
WHERE THEY HAVE SOME ENORMOUS
AGRIBUSINESS INTERESTS THAT THEY
HAVE DONE STUDIES ON WHAT
CLIMATE CHANGE, THE CHANGES
CLIMATE CHANGE WILL BRING WILL
HAVE ON THE AGRICULTURE CLIMATE
IN THE UNITED STATES.
I WONDER IF RESEARCH HAS DONE AS
TO WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE WILL DO
TO THE AGRIBUSINESS IN THIS
COUNTRY.

The caption changes to "A hungry future?"

Navin says THERE HAS
BEEN SOME RESEARCH BUT NOT AS
MUCH AS THERE SHOULD BE, IN MY
OPINION.
THERE HAS BEEN A TON OF RESEARCH
IN THE U.S., THERE SHOULD BE
MORE IN CANADA.
GENERALLY THE BELIEF IS SINCE
CANADA HAPPENS TO BE A COLD
COUNTRY, CLIMATE CHANGE WILL BE
BENEFICIAL FOR US.
THAT'S PROBABLY TRUE.
WE'LL PROBABLY HAVE LONGER
GROWING SEASONS FOR ONE THING
AND FARMERS MAY BE ABLE TO PLANT
THEIR CROPS EARLIER, THEY WILL
HAVE A LONGER GROWING SEASON
WHICH CROPS CAN ACCUMULATE MORE
GRAIN AND SO ON.
THE GENERAL BELIEF IS THAT
CLIMATE CHANGE WILL BE BETTER
FOR CANADIAN CROPS.
ON THE OTHER HAND, IF YOU THINK
ABOUT THE CANADIAN PRAIRIES,
IT'S PRETTY DRY ALREADY, AND SO
IF YOU HAVE CLIMATE CHANGE
CREATING MORE FREQUENT DROUGHTS
OR MORE INTENSE DROUGHTS, THAT
CAN BE QUITE BAD FOR CROPS IN
CANADA.
WE NEED TO DO A LOT MORE
RESEARCH ON EXACTLY HOW CANADIAN
CROPS ARE GOING TO RESPOND TO
CLIMATE CHANGE.

Steve says I'M NOT SURE IF YOU
KNOW THE ECONOMIST JEFF RUBIN
BUT HE HAS WRITTEN NUMEROUS
BOOKS OVER THE YEARS AND HE
BELIEVES CLIMATE CHANGE WILL BE
A MAJOR BOON FOR CANADIAN
AGRICULTURE.
DO YOU SHARE HIS VIEW?

Navin says I DON'T
AGREE WITH THAT.
WE HAVE TO THINK ABOUT --
TEMPERATURE IS NOT THE ONLY
THING PLANTS NEED.
SO MAYBE SOME PLACES IN NORTHERN
CANADA WILL BECOME MORE SUITABLE
FOR AGRICULTURE, BUT WE ALSO
THINK ABOUT WHAT KINDS OF SOILS
ARE THERE.
PLANTS NEED GOOD SOIL TO GET
THEIR NUTRIENTS.
SO IF YOU'RE MOVING INTO, SAY,
YOU KNOW, NORTHERN CANADA WHERE
WE HAVE REALLY POOR SOIL, YOU
KNOW, WARMER CLIMATE IS NOT
REALLY GOING TO HELP US.
AND THE SAME THING AGAIN, AS I
SAID BEFORE, IF YOU HAVE A DRIER
CLIMATE ALONG WITH THE WARMER
CLIMATE, THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY
A GOOD THING.

Steve says I APPRECIATE THAT
WE'D HAVE, PARTICULARLY IN THE
PRAIRIES, WE'D HAVE A PROBLEM
WITH THE DRY CLIMATE.
BUT WE ALSO HAVE THE MOST FRESH
WATER, I THINK, OF ANY COUNTRY
IN THE WORLD, SO PRESUMABLY THAT
WOULD BE A HELP AGAINST THAT,
WOULDN'T IT?

Navin says THAT'S
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EASTERN
AND WESTERN CANADA AGAIN, RIGHT?
WE HAVE A LOT OF FRESH WATER IN
EASTERN CANADA BUT NOT SO MUCH
IN WESTERN CANADA.

Steve says SO THEY'D BE OUT OF
LUCK BUT WE'D BE OKAY HERE?

Navin says YEAH,
THAT'S CORRECT.

Steve says OKAY.
IS THERE MUCH THAT FARMERS CAN
DO TODAY TO PREPARE FOR THE DAYS
TO COME?

Navin says YES.
THERE ARE MANY THINGS YOU CAN DO
AT THE FARM LEVEL.
THE ONE THING IS, AS I SAID
BEFORE, WE MAY HAVE EARLIER
PLANTING DATES.
FARMERS MAY BE ABLE TO PLANT
EARLIER AND HARVEST EARLIER,
WHICH MAY BE A GOOD THING,
BECAUSE YOU MAY BE ABLE TO AVOID
THE BIG HEAT WAVE THAT YOU MIGHT
HAVE IN THE PEAK OF SUMMER.
SO YOU MAY BE ABLE TO GET YOUR
CROPS OUT BEFORE AND AVOID THE
HEAT WAVE.
FARMERS MAY HAVE TO BETTER
MANAGE THEIR WATER, HAVE BETTER
IRRIGATION SYSTEMS IN ORDER TO
CONSERVE WATER, AND THEN FINALLY
I WOULD SAY DON'T PUT ALL YOUR
EGGS IN ONE BASKET, AND SO A
DIVERSIFICATION STRATEGY IN
TERMS OF GROWING MORE CROPS,
ROTATING MULTIPLE CROPS, MAY BE
A BETTER IDEA THAN FOCUSING ON
ONE CROP THAT MAY GET HIT BY
CLIMATE CHANGE.
BUT BEYOND KIND OF FARM-LEVEL
ADAPTATION STRATEGIES, I THINK
THERE NEED TO BE STRATEGIES AT
MULTIPLE LEVELS, SO IN TERMS OF
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, WE
COULD BE DEVELOPING NEW
CULTIVARS THAT ARE MORE HEAT
RESISTANT AND DROUGHT RESISTANT.
THE GOVERNMENT COULD IMPROVE THE
AVAILABILITY OF CROP INSURANCE
FOR FARMERS AND SO ON.

Steve says YOU DO REALIZE THERE
IS SOMETHING KIND OF DELICIOUSLY
IRONIC ABOUT A DISCUSSION ON
AGRICULTURE WHERE YOU USE THE
METAPHOR OF PUTTING ALL OF YOUR
EGGS IN ONE BASKET.
DID YOU MEAN TO DO THAT
INTENTIONALLY?

Navin chuckles and says NO, IT
WASN'T, BUT THAT'S QUITE FUNNY.

Steve says OKAY, JUST CHECKING.
ARE WE GOING TO HAVE TO COME TO
A REALIZATION THAT ONCE CLIMATE
CHANGE AND THE EFFECTS OF IT
REALLY KICK IN IN A MORE
SIGNIFICANT WAY, THERE ARE
SIMPLY GOING TO BE SOME THINGS
IN THIS COUNTRY THAT WE USED TO
PRODUCE THAT WE WILL NO LONGER
BE ABLE TO, AND IF SO, WHAT?

Navin says THAT'S A
GOOD QUESTION.
MOST OF THE CROPS -- THE FOUR
MAJOR CROPS IN THIS COUNTRY ARE
WHEAT, BARLEY, CANOLA, AND --
WHAT'S THE LAST ONE?
WE GROW SOME SOY AS WELL.
I DON'T THINK -- I DON'T SUSPECT
WE'RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO
GROW THESE CROPS ANYMORE, I
DON'T THINK IT'S THAT DRAMATIC.
AS THESE CROPS ARE AFFECTED, I
SENSE THAT OUR ABILITY TO --
MOST OF THESE CROPS, BY THE WAY,
ARE EXPORTED OUT OF THE COUNTRY
AS WELL.
IT'S NOT ALL FOR DOMESTIC
PRODUCTION.
SO OUR EXPORT MARKET MAY BE
AFFECTED SOMEWHAT.
THE PRICE OF CROPS MAY CHANGE,
SO SOME COUNTRIES WILL BE
AFFECTED IN TERMS OF HOW MUCH
THEY PAY FOR DIFFERENT KINDS OF
FOOD.
WE HAVE TO REMEMBER IT'S NOT
JUST CLIMATE CHANGE THAT HAPPENS
AND HOW IT AFFECTS CANADIAN
CROPS THAT CONSUMERS HAVE TO
WORRY ABOUT.
WE GET A LOT OF OUR FOOD FROM
OTHER PLACES AS WELL.
BRITISH COLUMBIA, FOR EXAMPLE,
GETS 50 percent -- MORE THAN 50 percent OF OUR
VEGETABLES AND NEARLY HALF OF
OUR FRUIT COMES FROM THE U.S.,
AND HALF OF THAT IS FROM
CALIFORNIA.
SO IF CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTS THE
CLIMATE IN CALIFORNIA, WE HAVE
TO WORRY ABOUT THAT AS WELL.
SO IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT CLIMATE
CHANGE IN CANADA WE HAVE TO
WORRY ABOUT BUT CLIMATE CHANGE
ELSEWHERE.
WE GET A LOT OF, FOR EXAMPLE,
BANANAS COME FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE
AND WE HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THAT
AS WELL.

Steve says SURE.
LET ME ASK THE FLIP SIDE OF THE
QUESTION WHICH IS, CAN YOU
IMAGINE THAT THERE WILL BE SOME
THINGS THAT WE CAN'T GROW
NOWADAYS BECAUSE THE CLIMATE
JUST DOESN'T ALLOW FOR IT, THAT
IF CLIMATE CHANGE KICKS IN IN A
MORE DRAMATIC WAY, WE WILL BE
ABLE TO GROW IN THE FUTURE?

Navin says GOOD QUESTION.
I WOULD LOVE TO SEE BANANAS
GROWING IN SOME PARTS OF CANADA.
I HAVEN'T SEEN ANY RESEARCH THAT
SHOWS EXACTLY WHAT KINDS OF
CROPS COULD MOVE INTO HERE, BUT
ONE WAY TO THINK ABOUT IT IS
LOOK DOWN INTO THE U.S. WHERE
THERE ARE, YOU KNOW, A WHOLE
VARIETY OF DIFFERENT CROPS GROWN.
IT DEPENDS HOW RAPIDLY AND HOW
FAST CLIMATE CHANGE IS.
BUT COULD WE POTENTIALLY GET THE
CLIMATE OF CALIFORNIA HERE OR
THE CLIMATE OF FLORIDA HERE?
MAYBE WE COULD BE GROWING MORE
ORANGES AND OTHER KINDS OF
FRUITS.
BUT I HAVEN'T SEEN ANY RESEARCH
THAT SHOWS EXACTLY WHAT THE
POTENTIAL WOULD BE.

Steve says HOW ABOUT THIS?
CAN YOU TELL HOW MUCH JUST
REGULAR EVERYDAY AGRICULTURE
CONTRIBUTES TO CLIMATE CHANGE IN
THE WORLD TODAY?

The caption changes to "Stewards of the land."

Navin says YEAH,
THAT'S ONE OF MY -- ONE OF THE
THINGS I SHOULD HAVE ADDED IN
TERMS OF ADAPTATION ITSELF.
I THINK WE ALWAYS THINK ABOUT
REACTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE, BUT
WE FORGET THAT AGRICULTURE
ITSELF IS A MAJOR CONTRIBUTE
TORE TO CLIMATE CHANGE --
CONTRIBUTOR TO CLIMATE CHANGE.
IT'S ESTIMATED THAT -- OF GLOBAL
WARMING IS DUE TO AGRICULTURE
ITSELF, THREE DIFFERENT THINGS.
FIRST, WHEN WE EXPAND
AGRICULTURAL LANDS, THIS IS
MAINLY HAPPENING IN THE TROPICS,
MAINLY IN INDONESIA, MALAYSIA,
BRAZIL, AND SO ON, AS WE EXPAND
AGRICULTURE IN THOSE PLACES, WE
ARE CUTTING DOWN FORESTS, AND
WHEN WE DO THAT, WE RELEASE
CARBON DIOXIDE INTO THE
ATMOSPHERE WHICH IS A GREENHOUSE
GAS CAUSING CLIMATE CHANGE.
THE OTHER TWO MAJOR IMPACTS OF
AGRICULTURE ON CLIMATE IS
THROUGH INCREASING IN METHANE
EMISSIONS.
METHANE IS ANOTHER MAJOR
GREENHOUSE GAS.
IT'S ACTUALLY A MORE POWERFUL
GREENHOUSE GAS THAN CARBON
DIOXIDE AND WE GET METHANE
THROUGH LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION AND
RICE PADDY CULTIVATION.
AND SO IT'S ESTIMATED THAT ABOUT
A HALF OF THE -- HALF OF ALL THE
METHANE WE PUT INTO THE
ATMOSPHERE COMES FROM
AGRICULTURE.
THE LAST THING IS NITROUS OXIDE.
THE EXCESS NITROGEN THAT REMAINS
IN THE SOIL, A BUNCH OF THAT
GETS OXIDIZED AND BECOMES A
PARTIAL GREENHOUSE GAS, AND IT'S
ESTIMATED THAT THREE-QUARTERS OF
IT THAT WE ARE EMITTING INTO THE
ATMOSPHERE COMES FROM THAT
APPLICATION.

Steve says I WAS JUST GOING TO
SAY, IN CONCLUSION HERE THEN,
CAN YOU TELL US HOW MUCH IS
HAPPENING IN TERMS OF REFORMS
AROUND THE WORLD TO CUT DOWN ON
THE DEFORESTING, TO REDUCE THE
AMOUNT OF METHANE THAT'S GOING
INTO THE ATMOSPHERE, AND REDUCE
THE AMOUNT OF NITROUS OXIDE
THAT'S GOING INTO THE
ATMOSPHERE, THEREBY REDUCING THE
EFFECT OF AGRICULTURE ON CLIMATE
CHANGE.

Navin says AT THE
LAST SUMMIT, THERE WAS A HUGE
PRESENCE FROM THE AGRICULTURE
COMMUNITY BECAUSE THEY REALIZED
AGRICULTURE IS A MAJOR PLAYER IN
CLIMATE CHANGE AND SHOULD TAKE A
MAJOR ROLE IN TERMS OF REDUCING
HUMAN IMPACT FROM CLIMATE.
I HOPE IT CONTINUES.
AS SOME PEOPLE MAY KNOW, THE ONE
MAJOR THING THAT COUNTRIES
AGREED UPON AT THE LAST
COPENHAGEN CLIMATE SUMMIT WAS TO
REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF
DEFORESTATION HAPPENING AROUND
THE PLANET.
THERE IS A TERM FOR IT, CALLED
R.E.D.D., REDUCING EMISSIONS
FROM REFORESTATION AND
DEGRADATION.
COUNTRIES HAVE AGREED TO PUT IN
MONEY FOR MORE PROJECTS ON
REDUCING DEFORESTATION.
PEOPLE ARE DOING RESEARCH TO
FIGURE OUT WHETHER THEY CAN FEED
ANIMALS A DIFFERENT DIET AND
REDUCE METHANE EMISSIONS,
WHETHER YOU CAN CHANGE THE WAY
YOU MANAGE FERTILIZERS IN ORDER
TO REDUCE NITROUS OXIDE
EMISSIONS.
THE ANSWER IS PERHAPS SIMPLE.
YOU CAN REDUCE FERTILIZERS IN
MANY PLACES AROUND THE WORLD,
INCLUDING NORTH AMERICA AND
EUROPE, AND REDUCING NITROUS
OXIDE EMISSIONS.
IT CAN ACTUALLY GREATLY
REDUCE -- SORRY, DECREASING
FERTILIZER APPLICATIONS.

Steve says HOW ABOUT FINISH ON
THIS: HOW ABOUT THE BEHAVIOUR OF
CONSUMERS.
IS THERE ANYTHING CONSUMERS CAN
OR SHOULD BE DOING TO REDUCE THE
IMPACT OF AGRICULTURE ON CLIMATE
CHANGE?

Navin says COUNTRIES
SHOULD PROBABLY BE MORE PREPARED
FOR FUTURE INCREASES IN CROP
PRICES AND I THINK THAT'S
SOMETHING WE CAN PROBABLY
ANTICIPATE, THAT SOME TYPES OF
FOODS THAT ARE GOING TO BE MORE
IMPACTED BY CLIMATE CHANGE MAY
GET MORE EXPENSIVE.
THE OTHER THINGS CONSUMERS COULD
DO IS REDUCING THEIR OWN IMPACT
ON CLIMATE THROUGH THEIR DIETS,
SO, FOR EXAMPLE, IF WE EAT MORE
MEAT IN TERMS OF DIET, WE ARE
HAVING A BIGGER IMPACT ON
AGRICULTURE LANDS AND THE KIND
OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM
THERE.
BY SHIFTING OUR DIETS, WE CAN
CONTRIBUTE A HUGE AMOUNT IN
TERMS OF HOW WE INFLUENCE
CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE FUTURE.

The caption changes to "Produced by Mark Brosens, @markbrosens."

Steve says UNDERSTOOD.
NAVIN RAMANKUTTY FROM THE
UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA,
GOOD OF YOU TO JOIN US ON TVO
TONIGHT.
THANKS SO MUCH.

Navin says THANKS,
STEVE. PLEASURE.

Watch: Navin Ramankutty: Farming in a Changing Climate